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Toliver v. State

Court of Appeals of Mississippi

October 30, 2018

CHRISTOPHER TOLIVER A/K/A DONTE HALL A/K/A DANTE HALL APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF MISSISSIPPI APPELLEE

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 08/03/2017

          COPIAH COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT HON. LAMAR PICKARD TRIAL JUDGE

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: OFFICE OF STATE PUBLIC DEFENDER BY: BENJAMIN A. SUBER GEORGE T. HOLMES MOLLIE M. MCMILLAN

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL BY: ABBIE EASON KOONCE

          DISTRICT ATTORNEY: ALEXANDER C. MARTIN

          BEFORE IRVING, P.J., CARLTON AND FAIR, JJ.

          CARLTON, J.

         ¶1. Christopher Toliver was convicted in Copiah County Circuit Court of possession of weapons by a convicted felon. He was sentenced to serve eight years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC). Toliver's post-trial motions were denied. Toliver appealed, asserting that the trial court erred in denying his post-trial motions because the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the jury's guilty verdict. Finding no error, we affirm.

         STATEMENT OF FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. On June 5, 2017, Toliver was indicted under Mississippi Code Annotated section 97-37-5 (Rev. 2014) for possession of weapons by a convicted felon. The circumstances surrounding this charge arose when several members of the Copiah County Sheriff's Department went to 4056 Tanyard Road in Crystal Springs on October 21, 2016. Two of the officers present on that day, Officer William Larry Lee and Officer Percy Calhoun, testified at Toliver's August 3, 2017 trial. Both officers testified that Toliver opened the door and allowed the officers to search the home. Officer Lee testified that Toliver owned the home. No contradictory evidence as to this fact was presented at trial. The officers also testified that three other adults were in the house when the members of the sheriff's department arrived. The officers discovered five guns-three behind a mirror, one on a night stand by the bed, and one between two mattresses. Both officers testified that Toliver admitted to them that the guns were his.[1]

         ¶3. Officer Lee testified that Toliver was a convicted felon. He testified that he ascertained this information "by what [Toliver] said that day [when the guns were discovered at the Tanyard Road residence]." After Officers Lee and Calhoun testified, the State's next witness was Edna Stevens, the Circuit Clerk of Copiah County since 1984. She was questioned about the State's exhibit S-6, a certified copy of a sentencing order showing that in 1998 Toliver pleaded guilty to a possession-of-stolen-property charge and was sentenced to serve a one-year suspended sentence in the custody of MDOC. The sentencing order also shows that Toliver was ordered to pay attorney's fees of $1, 000, court costs of $240, a fine of $500, and restitution of $150 to Markeith Lofton and $150 to Greg Sanders. Ms. Stevens testified that she is charged with recording such orders. On cross-examination, she acknowledged that Toliver's 1998 sentencing order did not specifically contain the term "felony." On re-direct examination, however, Ms. Stevens testified that the crime of possession of stolen property is recorded as a felony.

         ¶4. The State's next witness was Greg Farrell, a long-time MDOC probation officer. The record reflects that Officer Farrell met with Toliver after his sentencing on the possession-of-stolen-property conviction to explain the paperwork Toliver must complete, to answer any questions Toliver may have, and to obtain Toliver's signature on the documents. Officer Farrell testified that he only supervises felony cases, and that a person charged with a misdemeanor would not see him. When a person receives a suspended sentence, as in Toliver's case, Officer Farrell testified that the paperwork includes (1) a form entitled "Notice of How Firearms and Voting Laws Affect You" that addresses certain laws that will affect the probationer; and (2) the probation order that, among other items, contains the conditions of probation.

         ¶5. The Notice of How Firearms and Voting Laws Affect You form, signed by Toliver and witnessed by Officer Farrell, was admitted into evidence as the State's exhibit S-7. This form clearly provides that Toliver was not allowed to have firearms in his possession "on or after the date of [his] conviction," including "purchasing any weapon from licensed firearms dealers, who are prohibited by law from selling firearms to convicted felons." Continuing, the form specifies that "[t]o tell them you are not a convicted felon is also a crime."

         ¶6. Toliver's 1998 probation order relating to the possession-of-stolen-property conviction was admitted into evidence as the State's exhibit S-8. It was also signed by Toliver and witnessed by Officer Farrell. The probation order provides that because "the defendant has not been heretofore convicted of a felony," the court would suspend Toliver's sentence and place him on probation. One of the listed conditions of probation was that Toliver was prohibited from possessing firearms.

         ¶7. The jury rendered a unanimous verdict finding Toliver guilty of possession of firearms by a convicted felon, in violation of section 97-37-5. He was sentenced to serve eight years in MDOC. After the trial court denied his post-trial motions, Toliver appealed. He raises one assignment of error: The ...


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